previous next

13. That pain moreover is an evil and to be avoided is admitted; since all pain is either absolutely evil, or evil as being some way an impediment to activity. But that which is the opposite of something to be avoided—opposed to it as a thing to be avoided and evil—must be good. It follows therefore that pleasure is a good. Speusippus attempted to refute this argument1 by saying that, as the greater is opposed to the equal as well as to the less, so pleasure is opposed to a neutral state of feeling as well as to pain. But this refutation does not hold good; for Speusippus would not maintain that pleasure is essentially evil. [2]

But granting (2) that some pleasures are bad, it does not therefore follow (3) that a certain pleasure may not nevertheless be the Supreme Good; just as a certain form of knowledge may be supremely good, although some forms of knowledge are bad. On the contrary (i) since every faculty has its unimpeded activity, the activity of all the faculties, or of one of them (whichever constitutes Happiness) , when unimpeded, must probably be the most desirable thing there is; but an unimpeded activity is a pleasure; so that on this showing the Supreme Good will be a particular kind of pleasure, even though most pleasures are bad, and, it may be, bad absolutely. This is why everybody thinks that the happy life must be a pleasant life, and regards pleasure as a necessary ingredient of happiness; and with good reason, since no impeded activity is perfect, whereas Happiness is essentially perfect; so that the happy man requires in addition the goods of the body, external goods and the gifts of fortune, in order that his activity may not be impeded through lack of them. [3] (Consequently those who say2 that, if a man be good, he will be happy even when on the rack, or when fallen into the direst misfortune, are intentionally or unintentionally talking nonsense.) [4] But because Happiness requires the gifts of fortune in addition, some people think that it is the same thing as good fortune; but this is not so, since even good fortune itself when excessive is an impediment to activity, and perhaps indeed no longer deserves to be called good fortune, since good fortune can only be defined in relation to Happiness. [5]

(ii.) Moreover, that all animals and all human beings pursue pleasure is some indication that it is in a sense the Supreme Good: “ No rumor noised abroad by many peoples
Comes utterly to naught.3

” [6]

But they do not all pursue the same pleasure, since the natural state and the best state neither is nor seems to be the same for them all; yet still they all pursue pleasure. Indeed it is possible that in reality they do not pursue the pleasure which they think and would say they do, but all the same pleasure; for nature has implanted in all things something divine.4 But as the pleasures of the body are the ones which we most often meet with, and as all men are capable of these, these have usurped the family title; and so men think these are the only pleasures that exist, because they are the only ones which they know.

1 See more fully, 10.2.5.

2 Probably the Cynics.

3 Hes. WD 763; the couplet ends, πολλοὶ φημίζουσι: θεός νύ τις ἐστὶ καὶ αὐτήvox populi vox dei).

4 Cf. 10.2.4.

load focus Greek (J. Bywater)
hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Visualize the most frequently mentioned Pleiades ancient places in this text.

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide References (1 total)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: